Damil DR-18c all-road 38 full carbon rim brake wheels review
Handmade Italian wheels with hubs you'll hear a mile off
Quick pick-up hubs with stiff rims that provide an aero edge without a hefty weight penalty. Unfortunately not tubeless ready, which loses them a few marks, but otherwise a great choice (as long as you like a noisy hub).
Light for the rim depth
Not tubeless ready
Damil isn't a name that conjures romanticised images of passionate cyclists making wheels by hand in the mountains of Northern Italy, but that's what the brand does.
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The company was founded by cyclist Andrea Repele, who owns Damil Torneria, which produces CNC'd alloy parts for industries including automotive and motorcycle.
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Repele's original objective was to develop the heart of a wheel: the hub, but having ticked that off he went the whole hog to create the surroundings.
The road range consists of rim and disc brake options, with 20mm, 38mm and 50mm rims to choose from. The wheels we have on test are the middling options, said to suit the rouleurs of the world seeking an aero edge without too much additional heft or concern in the crosswinds.
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The hubs themselves are made almost entirely in-house ('almost' because the bearings are bought in) in Vicenza, Northern Italy.
Engagement comes from four two-tooth pawls, which engage to a 60 tooth ratchet ring. The aim of the game is quick pick-up as soon as the rider puts the pedal down.
It's hard to evaluate the speed of pickup, but I tested the wheels on club runs, in early season races and at techy 'crit skills' session at Herne Hill Velodrome - which typically involved weaving around tightly placed cones up and down the track. The final test was a 750km week in Denia, Spain.
Around the tight bends of the Herne Hill crit courses, and in crit races proper, I felt the wheels were responsive and accelerated quickly out of the bends and in sprints. It was consistently noted that the satisfyingly loud hub gave away exactly how often I wasn't pedalling.
All of the hubs share the same interchangeable freehub bodies, to suit Shimano, Campagnolo or SRAM. Most crucially, they're available in ten different colours, including a lovely sky blue that I reckon would match this year's team kit perfectly.
Every pair of wheels is built by hand in-house, but Damil's primary interest is in its hub. The brand believes that rims have pretty much reached their optimum in aerodynamic development. That point is debatable - but regardless, it buys them in rather than developing its own.
The rims are constructed from Taiwanese T700 carbon using a 12k weave, laced together in a unidirectional pattern for added strength and stiffness.
Whilst Damil is looking to add tubeless ready carbon road rims to its range in June this year, the current offering is not designed to be set up with sealant which does set them behind the rest of the industry by quite a way.
From the first ride upon these hoops, the increase in stiffness was notable. The front end of the bike felt more rigid - which meant a reduction in compliance coupled with a feeling that the entire machine was ready to accelerate hard out the blocks.
Wheels are very much a horses for courses conversation - I rode the Damils over hundreds of kilometres in Spain with no issue. but ideally I'd choose these when seeking power transfer and aero gains over all out compliance.
Despite the semi-deep rim, the wheels are far from heavy - indeed ours came in at 1470g (minus skewers).
Climbing the mountains in Denia I certainly didn't feel that I was held back by using a deep rim, and I enjoyed some of my best descent efforts yet without any concern over rim reliability.
The braking surface features Basalt fiber and the wheels come with their own brake pads. They definitely pair together.
Running the rims originally with a different set of pads, I was treated to squealing and erratic performance that I certainly didn't trust in an emergency. However, with the right equipment in place, braking was quick and reliable, even in the wet.
At 38mm, the rims aren't deep enough to worry about sidewinds, and I didn't.
Damil has used steel constructed, aero CX-Ray Sapim spokes, with 20 at the front and 24 at the rear, a strong enough build without creating excessive turbulence - and the rims stayed true over several months of riding.
The 25mm rims have an internal width of 18mm. There's no aero claims made about the rim and its pairing with any particular width tyre. However, I did enjoy the way both the 25mm Continental GP4000 II S tyres and 28mm Bontrager R4 Classics slipped on with the greatest ease - saving a few minutes in instillation, as well as the skin on my thumbs.
At £1340, they stack up well against the competition with their weight of 1470g. Comparatively, Zipp 302s have a 45mm rim and weight 1645g, costing £1299 whilst the Fast Forward F4R full carbon clinchers - also with a 45mm rim - cost £1429.99 and weigh 1470g.
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Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper, where highlights included interviewing a very irate Freddie Star (and an even more irate theatre owner), as well as 'the one about the stolen chickens'.
Previous to joining the Cycling Weekly team, Michelle was Editor at Total Women's Cycling. She joined CW as an 'SEO Analyst', but couldn't keep her nose out of journalism and in the spreadsheets, eventually taking on the role of Tech Editor before her latest appointment as Digital Editor.
Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.
Michelle is on maternity leave from July 8 2022, until April 2023.
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